Manuel: 'We have to get better hitting'

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel met with the media at Citizens Bank Bark today. (Associated Press)

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel held a news conference Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park to wrap up the season. Here are some highlights:

On what Amaro said yesterday about changing the approach at the plate: “I think I’m definitely on board with what Ruben says when I talked to him. At the same time, if you guys listen to me during the course of the year and last couple of years, I touch on it when I talked about hitting. He would like to see us grind out more at-bats, learn how to work more counts, plate discipline. All those things he talks about, I talked about, I teach that … It’s a matter of keep reminding guys. We definitely will have meetings and things like that in spring training and carry it out during the season. We have to get better hitting … You have to know what kind of hitter you are. I’m definitely on board with what Ruben says.”

On the current hitters: “I take it very personal. I talk about the fact that we used to have .300 hitters .. If you have listened to me in the past, especially in the last two years you’ve heard me say that over and over again. Utley used to be a .300 hitter. He’s had injury problems … Victorino can be a .300 hitter. He can be better and can hit .300. He’s got talent and capable. Howard hit .300 hit one year. He hasn’t hit .300 since. I know he hit in the .280s … We’ve got some guys who can hit .300.”

On can these hitters adjust: “I go back to pitchers and scouting reports. You make adjustments, the pitchers make adjustments and the hitters have to make adjustments. If you don’t like to or are afraid to go deep in the count or to hit with two strikes on you, you are going to get anxious, you’ll be aggressive and chase bad balls. At times, we’ll take a fastball right down the middle, some guy will throw a breaking ball down and we’ll roll over it and swing at it and miss. That’s not good hitting. We talk about that all the time. That’s how I talk to our hitters and so goes [Greg Gross]. At the same time, pitching in baseball is getting better .. They know who likes to swing, who won’t walk, who doesn’t take pitches, who will go out of strike zone and take bad pitches. At lot of times they don’t like to go deep in the counts.”

Should the expectations be lowered moving ahead: “Absolutely not. That’s the way I like it. We play the every day game. You can put expectations on all you want to, it’s the expectations that they put on themselves and how we look at things. Right now when we go to spring training, what we will be talking about is getting to the World Series and win. That’s been our goal ever since we won after 2008."

Age of core players?: "From an offensive standpoint, with the core players, the health thing definitely comes into play, having them on the field for a period of time and instead of having a disarray of lineups. We would get a better look at how good they can do, the health part and being on the field counts as much or more than anything. Talking about guys anywhere from 31 to 34 years old. That’s at the backside of their career but near the top of what their production should be … When I say together, I don’t know how many lineups changes we had, if we have same guys in our lineup for a long period of time we get a better read on it. The last 2-3 years we just haven’t had that.”

Is the message getting through? “Do the players listen to me? Without a doubt. I know they listen to me. Do every one of them? There might be somebody who didn’t get to play or who’s upset or something, he’ll tell you. The only way to find out is if you ask them and I’m sure they will tell you. I think they listen to me.”

On can he make the changes happen? “I take a lot of pride in hitters. … I know how good a hitting coach I am and I don’t care whether you want to believe that or not. We will get better.”

What is the biggest need right now? “We have to wait and see what our roster is going to be. We have a lot of question marks. We’ve got some guys, Rollins, Madson, Ibanez, Gload. We’ve got guys like who are question marks at the moment.”

More on expectations: “When we added Hunter Pence, that improved our team and gave us a big lift and gave us a player that we desperately needed. We became a better team with Hunter Pence. Our expectation coming out of spring training, we wanted to go to the World Series and win. That was our ultimate goal. We did not fulfill that goal. We had a tremendous regular season, we got to the first round of the playoffs and got beat. I look at it that we didn’t reach our goal. We got into a 2-2 situation, we lost the third game in a shutout. Baseball is a game you’re asking a whole lot when you say we gotta win a World Series. That’s high stakes. With the talent assembled on our team people and the media put expectations that we had to win the World Series. It didn’t happen .. . I’m sorry for that."

On the home run total: “If we need to upgrade and we can, we should do it … Our home run production is down. I think Hunter Pence, he ended up hitting 11-12 home runs for us. I think we ‘re going to get 25 or 30 out of him. That will up our total … I think Utley can hit anywhere from 20 to 30, if he stays healthy. If we can stay healthy, it gets back to that being a key. Being healthy and being on the field is going to take care of a lot of things."

About the bench and whether that needs to be upgraded: “This year, I felt like that you’ll notice we carried Michael Martinez and Wilson Valdez, two utility players that are similar players. The reason we did that was because of the health problems of Chase and Polanco and Jimmy has missed time with injuries. If we had both of those guys in the lineup at the same time, it was good that we had those guys … Gload was our lefthanded hitter off the bench and we had Ben Francisco and at times we had Mayberry at times. We had Petey Orr. Any way we thought we can improve our team, I definitely will talk to Ruben about this. We can do some things, if we can upgrade our order. I had a meeting with Ruben the other day and it was very positive, him and I talking quite a bit about the team and our bench is one of those positions.”

Do you need a more vocal leader in the clubhouse? “I think that might be the key to it. It’s the team and everything together. We do have some guys who can do that. That will get the message across too. That is one of the steps we are going to take to get better.”

On John Mayberry: "John Mayberry is going to get a chance to be a regular player. I think he will get to play more this coming season than he did this year. When I talked to John Mayberry last year at this time, Ruben Amaro and I thought it was time at his age and with the time he spent in minor leagues, to see if he could play in the big leagues. He proved that he can be a good big-league player. He will get every chance in the world to be a regular player.”

On Jimmy Rollins: “Jimmy has had some injuries that definitely have cut into his running and the fact that he was a top profile base stelaer. He was one of these guys to get on first base, raise his hand and say I’m going, throw me out. I don’t think he can do that anymore. When I watch him play defense and Jimmy knows his hitting, he is capable of having a better year than he had this year. “

On getting some older players more rest: “I’m a best lineup guy. Most managers are that way. The reasons sometimes you see us flip flop players or rotate players or run a platoon system, there are guys in baseball that do that and can be very successful at it. I have had success with it in Cleveland and here. I am a best lineup guy for that day, whoever’s pitching that day I want to put the best lineup on the field. That win on the first of April is just as important as the game in September. If you can give down time at the end of the year that makes some sense."

On being among the top teams in runs scored: “Runs scored can be very misleading. What I saw was a team that had good starting pitcher. Our pitching is better than what I thought it would be. Pitching covered over some mistakes. If we did score we had a chance to win games. We won 102 games, the most games the Phillies have ever won. What happened was we didn’t get it done and that happens a lot … Baseball is a funny game.”

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